The watch industry moves at a pace that makes menswear look indecisive. But then, developing a new case shape isn’t like making your tees a bit longer. When faced with a big dent to the R&D budget, no wonder most brands stick to making round watches in different colours.
But at this year’s SIHH and Baselworld, the big brands proved they can think outside the box. Or, perhaps, inside it; where once watchmakers offered only curves, suddenly there were angles, a glut of square-faced timepieces not seen since the dawn of Art Deco.
Why this shift? A fruit-themed smartwatch shoulders some responsibility. But it’s equally, well, just because watchmakers can. With roots in 20th century military watches, the square case isn’t new ground for the industry. But the scale of production is. Switzerland only jumps on bandwagons when they’ve proved they’ll go the distance. Judging by these highlights, an investment now will pay off down the road.
Tag Heuer Monaco
Worn by one-man moodboard Steve McQueen, TAG Heuer’s Monaco is probably the most iconic square-faced watch in history.
Back then it was strapped to racers’ wrists, but the split second accuracy they demanded lives on in TAG’s Calibre 12 movement – which vibrates 28,800 times an hour. Handy, even if you only use yours to time pasta.
Available at The Watch Gallery, priced £4,050.
Larsson & Jennings Norse
Larsson & Jennings has built its brand on Scandi-Anglo cool. In the new Norse model, that means a minimalist dial housed in an angular case which references the 19th century British soldier’s timepiece of choice.
To keep things out of a history lesson, the black-on-black-on-black approach adds a modern spin.
Available at Larsson & Jennings, priced £245.
Roger Dubuis Golden Square
Roger Dubuis is best known for complicated tourbillons that look like something RoboCop might wear. But it hasn’t always been that way.
The vintage Golden Square model harks back to a time when rose gold cases and Arabic numerals were more common than a diamond-encrusted exoskeletal arm cannon. Bring back the good old days, we say.
Available at Watchfinder, priced £8,950.
Bell & Ross Br-S Desert Type
Bell & Ross has carved a niche in technical pieces that often find their way onto the arms of the special forces they’re inspired by.
The BR-S Desert Type channels this commando aesthetic into something clean enough that you can still wear it while you’re waiting for doomsday. Roger that.
Available at Ernest Jones, priced £1,900.
Skagen Square Face White Dial
Skagen sits neatly between bacon and Hans Christian Anderson as one of Denmark’s finest exports, thanks to an unrivalled handle on minimalist design.
Nothing illustrates the brand’s less-is-more approach more than this square-faced watch – clean, classic and the perfect partner to anything in your wardrobe.
Available at H.Samuel, priced £76.49.
Cartier Tank Solo
If you’re worried that the Tank’s dainty dial is a touch feminine, then know its square face was inspired by the Renault tanks that Louis Cartier saw churn through no man’s land during the First World War.
These days, you’re more likely to fight your battles in the boardroom, but the Tank Solo makes for equally devastating wristwear all the same.
Available at The Watch Gallery, priced £2,200.
Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Slimline
Christopher Ward’s C5 Malvern kills two fat horological birds with one jewel: first, the square-faced case; second, the navy-on-navy look that was equally unmissable at Baselworld.
The pocket-friendly price belies some wrist-friendly mechanics, with a hand-wound movement that proves not all great watches should cost the world.
Available at Christopher Ward, priced £399.
Seiko Solar SUP880P9
Seiko is something of an unsung horological hero, a status that designs like the Solar are sure to change. The off-white dial and gold case smack of pre-war design, but the retro styling hides an innovative sun-powered movement (it is in the name, after all).
As with so many Japanese brands, you get supreme craftsmanship for a fraction the price you’d pay in Geneva.
Available at Seiko, priced £109.